In science "hopeful monsters" are genetic mutants that adapt themselves to changing environments, and are often the bridge between species. In Hiromi Goto's collection of stories, hopeful monsters are characters trapped between generations and cultures, desperately seeking to evolve, to escape their lives and even themselves. A woman gives birth to a baby with a tail and is forced to re-examine her relationship with her mother and confront her past. Three generations of women spend a night around a kitchen table, describing how their dreams turn into nightmares. A young woman tries to understand humanity and her own experiences by immersing herself in mall life. They all know they're out of place, but they don't know where to go. There's no sanctuary for them, no domestic or cultural space where they can blend in and lead normal lives. The past is a strange land and the future an alien one.
But Hopeful Monsters isn't simply another catalog of cultural disconnections and domestic crises. Instead, its characters find secret paths through the foreign landscapes of their lives, paths that lead to moments of, if not understanding, then at least recognition, and perhaps even reconciliation. The characters' journeys are mirrored in Goto's narrative style. The stories are loose, full of gaps and jarring disjunctions, but at the same time are marked by a poet's attention to language and the ability to find beauty and solace in the strange and unknowable. They end not with resolution or closure, but with the opening of possibilities, of a shift from one life to another, from dream to reality. Hopeful Monsters carries the genetic material of recognizable genres--coming-of-age story, immigrant narrative, feminist text--but it defies categorization. It's a hybrid entity for a hybrid time. --Peter Darbyshire [via]